India recently achieved a new milestone in its Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program, advancing toward equipping itself with a multi-layered defense system against ballistic missile attacks.

The Indian Navy, alongside its Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), successfully conducted a maiden flight trial of a sea-based endo-atmospheric interceptor missile off the coast of Odisha in the Bay of Bengal on April 21, it announced via a press release.

With this, India is now among the “elite club of nations” equipped with a naval ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability alongside the United States, China, Russia, and Israel.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the team for the successful demonstration. At the same time, DRDO chairman Dr. Samir V Kamat lauded everyone involved in the design and development of the sea-based BMD, saying that “the nation has achieved self-reliance in developing highly-complex network-centric anti-ballistic missile systems.”

Since the late 1990s, India has been working on acquiring a BMD system to protect the nation and its citizens against incoming ballistic missile threats, especially considering the volatile security situation in the region.

It initially partnered with Israel, a renowned country for its advanced air defense capabilities, which provided New Delhi with technical expertise and assistance in developing the system. Later, Russia and the US joined the development, offering critical technology and expertise.

The Indian BDM system is based on two interceptor missile systems: the Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile system that work together to intercept and destroy missile attacks at an altitude of 80 kilometers for PDV and about 30 km suing the AAD missile. Together, they provide comprehensive coverage against a wide range of ballistic missile threats.

AD-1 Long-range interceptor
Maiden flight test of Phase-II Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor on November 2022 (Image source: India’s Ministry of Defense)

Over the years, the BMD program has undergone several phases of development, with successful test firings of the interceptor missiles in 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, and 2019.

In addition, the DRDO has completed a series of tests for a land-based two-tier BMD system designed to track and destroy nuclear payload from both the inside (endo) and outside (exo) of the earth’s atmosphere at altitudes from 15-25 km to 80-100 km.

Moreover, the DRDO has achieved a significant milestone previously by completing a series of tests for its land-based variant. Like the sea-based, this BMD system seeks to detect and intercept incoming nuclear payloads and other threats at both the endo (inside the earth’s atmosphere) and exo (outside the earth’s atmosphere) ranges, covering altitudes from 15-25 km to 80-100 km.

“This is the first time that the terminal endo-atmospheric interceptor was tested from a shi against an ‘electronic target.’ More tests, including of exo-atmospheric interceptors, will of course have to be conducted,” a source said, cited by The Times of India.

He further noted the importance of both the land- and sea-based BMD systems to defend the vital areas and installations across the country, adding that “the next-generation destroyers or dedicated BMD vessels will be equipped with such systems with long-range radars and sensors to detect, track, and destroy hostile missiles.”

With eyes on North Korea, U.S. successfully destroys mock ICBM over Pacific

Read Next: With eyes on North Korea, U.S. successfully destroys mock ICBM over Pacific

During the flight test of the Phase-II BMD interceptor AD-1 missile last November 2022, the DRDO successfully demonstrated the capabilities of the interceptor missile within a significant kill altitude off the coast of Odisha. Using a two-stage motor propeller, it showcased its capacity to thwart long-range nuclear payloads and aircraft. Other advanced features include its indigenously-made control system, navigation, and precise guidance algorithm.

While India’s BMD program has made promising progress with its latest milestone, there is still a long way to go before it becomes operational.

Against Hostile Neighbors’ Threats

India sits between hostile neighbors Pakistan and China, which are equipped with conventional or nuclear warheads and therefore face ballistic missile threats, which makes New Delhi’s BMD system more significant.

Both its hostile neighbors possess powerful and lethal ballistic missiles, with Pakistan owning short- and medium-range munitions—the latter can reach the farthest western coast of India and most of its northern region. Meanwhile, China has been progressively advancing its military modernization ambition and maintaining a more powerful arsenal, including the Dong Feng intercontinental ballistic missile system that can reach any part of India and beyond, or at least up to 15,000 km range.

DF-15B ICBM (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Besides its BMD program, India works on developing an anti-satellite (A-SAT) system, another advanced technology that only a few superpowers have, including Russia, China, and the US. Dubbed ‘Mission Shakti,’ the A-SAT is India’s first capable of neutralizing threats from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and has successfully tested in late March 2019.

Other Indian air defense systems include Akash medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM), Barak-8 long-range SAM, and Spyder short to medium-range mobile air defense system, among others that integrates components designed and developed in the country. Moreover, it is also inducting a Russian-built S-400 Triumf missile system—a long-range SAM capable of reaching up to 400 km and engaging targets at an altitude of 30 km—which has been delayed owing to Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine.

Discover the 1947 split, which initially promised its people freedom in both political and religious beliefs, but ultimately resulted in greater schisms and the establishment of the Muslim state of Pakistan. Check out The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan by Yasmin Khan. Click here to buy today!